LAS VEGAS, Nev. – For the fifth straight year, the University of New Mexico football team is picked by the media to finish last in the Mountain West Conference’s Mountain Division.
The Lobos’ third-year coach Danny Gonzales is OK with that prediction, he said Wednesday during the MWC football media days at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
He gave the impression that UNM, 3-9 and last in the division a year ago, will make the media look silly.
“We’re picked last right now,” Gonzales said slyly. “We’ll see what happens in November.”
Gonzales believes the Lobos’ offensive line is bigger than last year’s and the team has increased its strength with dedication to work in the weight room. UNM will be tested early in the season.
Boise State, picked to finish first in the Mountain Division, visits University Stadium Friday, Sept. 9.
Air Force, Utah State, Colorado State and Wyoming followed the Broncos in the Mountain Division picks.
Fresno State, led by talented quarterback Jake Haener, is picked to win the West Division, followed by San Diego State, San Jose State, Nevada, UNLV and Hawaii.
ADVANTAGE MONTES: Four quarterbacks – CJ Montes, Miles Kendrick, Justin Holaday and Isaiah Chavez, will battle to become the Lobos’ starter as preseason camp begins Aug. 5.
“If there was one guy who had the advantage, I would say CJ,” Gonzales said of the redshirt freshman quarterback who turned in a great spring session. “It’s just because he’s been healthiest the longest and he’s been in the offense the longest. Him and Isaiah, but Isaiah missed some time.”
Montes broke his left hand early in UNM’s 31-17 home loss to UNLV on Nov. 6, but he finished the game, as he kept the injury to himself.
“Tough sucker,” Gonzales said. “Even when CJ hurt his hand he was still in every meeting. Mentally he should have the biggest advantage. The other three shouldn’t be that far behind. It’ll be fun. We’ll name a starter probably two weeks before game time – unless it’s such a close battle and we’ll need to do it for one more week.”
JUSTIN WHO? Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said the Bulldogs never looked into adding UNM newcomer Holaday, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound transfer from Fresno City College. Holaday threw for 1,821 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions on 133-of-229 passing (58.1%) for the Rams. He led Fresno City to an 8-3 record. The former Lemoore (California) High standout rushed for 391 yards and 10 touchdowns, including a 63-yard TD run.
“What’s his name?” Tedford said. “They just got him this year? We weren’t really in the market for a junior college quarterback. We didn’t have a need for (one).”
Tedford said the Bulldogs are set at quarterback behind Haener with transfers Matt Robinson from Illinois and Alec Trujilo from San Jose State. They also have sophomore Logan Fife, freshman Joshua Wood and redshirt freshman Jaylen Henderson, who received a UNM offer when he was at Chaminade High in Los Angeles.
Fresno State plays at UNM on Oct. 22.
LOBOS’ NEW WR: New Mexico has added Zoe Roberts, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound wide receiver transferring from Tennessee Martin of the Ohio Valley Conference. He had 27 catches for 235 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore last year.
Roberts is in the same mold as UNM’s playmaking sophomore, Luke Wysong, Gonzales said.
“(He’s) a little shifty and a little bit taller (than Wysong),” Gonzales said. “We have a chance to have two guys in that mold, and he’ll be someone that we’ll rely on with some of the banging that Luke will take.”
Roberts starred at Taylor County High in Perry, Florida, where he tallied 126 career receptions for 2,285 yards and 18 touchdowns. As a senior, he had 61 receptions for 1,220 yards with eight receiving touchdowns. He averaged 110.9 yards per game and also rushed for two TDs and 163 yards on 13 carries.
HE CAN’T DANCE: The MWC coaches were asked to do a dance called “The Griddy” as part of some promotional videos for the upcoming season. Gonzales didn’t want any part of that.
“I can’t do it,” Gonzales said. “I ain’t giving them that fodder. And there are cameras available?”
Gonzales said he and Wyoming coach Craig Bohl both gave a stiff-arm to the moves.
TIMES, YES – TV? The Lobos announced they now have kickoff times of 6 p.m. both for the opener here against Maine on Sept. 3 and also for the Sept. 17 home game vs. UTEP. No TV has been announced yet for either the Maine or UTEP games.